As you can tell by the title of his post, Guy and his readers are discussing the question of whether narrative portions of Scripture are only descriptive or if they are both descriptive and prescriptive. The question of normativity (that is, what in Scripture is applicable to the follower of Jesus Christ today, and how is it applicable) is a difficult one. In the comments, you will find people who come down on each side of this debate.
I added my thoughts to the discussion, and I thought would share those thoughts here. Here is my comment on Guy’s post:
This is an important discussion, because you’re asking a question that is typically overlooked.
The answer to what is prescriptive and what is (merely) descriptive is usually answered by a person’s theological tradition or background instead of some hermeneutical or interpretive strategy. Thus, we accept certain things as prescriptive (normative) because we are more reformed, or less reformed, or more baptistic, or less baptistic, or more liturgical or less liturgical.
All of Scripture (from Genesis to Revelation) contains a mixture of genres. One of the most difficult genres to interpret is narrative – which we find primarily in the Gospels and Acts in the New Testament (although there are aspects of narrative in the Epistles and Revelation as well).
For me, John 13:1-15 is helpful for understanding how to interpret narrative. I don’t think Jesus’ remarks in John 13:14-15 apply only to foot washing, and I don’t think they apply only to this particular passage.
Are the narrative passages of Scripture prescriptive (normative) for followers of Christ today? It depends on what you mean by prescriptive. Should we do exactly what those early believers (or Jesus) did? Probably not. Should we learn from their example and live accordingly (you could call this by principle, if you choose)? Yes, I think so.
What do you think? Can John 13:1-15, and especially Jesus’ instructions in John 13:14-15 help us understand how we are to interpret narrative passages of Scripture?